Sep 28, 2015

CARNIVAL themed Birthday - Manav turns 4!

Our little apple is not so little anymore as he turned a fantastic four years old on July 11th.  Manav, our lil'Appu, is a proud, cheerful and full of smiles four year old with tons of mischief up his sleeves and lot of good wit and charm.
He is tall, intelligent, a bit shy in front of strangers but smart, loves to walk, run and ride his bike all day long. He cannot get enough of swimming and staying in the water. He loves writing his name over and over again on his white board and has learnt to color within the lines and recognize all the alphabets and numbers and counts until 30! 
He is a music lover and absolutely loves Bollywood songs and listening to the Malayalam rockband Thaikudam Bridge. Hrithik Roshan is his favorite dancing actor and Appu even tries to imitate his steps. 
He loves helping his dad with all kinds of housework and backyard chores and thinks he has a lot of muscles :-D 

He sticks to me like a bee to a flower and literally keeps me on my toes. There is never a dull moment with my bumble bee and like I always say, I can never have enough of writing about him. Manish, myself, our family and close friends wishes him all success in life and we'll be there to support him in whatever his heart desires to do. This year's birthday was a lot more special with Appu's paternal grandparents being here and they helped a lot with all the decoration and party planning.

I was initially quite clueless as to what theme to keep for his 4th birthday. Oh! btw...I love doing themed's just so much fun to keep a theme and watch it materialize and the internet has all kinds of fun ideas. After looking around for ideas I saw this super fun theme - A CARNIVAL party or a CIRCUS theme that can be easily done in any outdoor or indoor space and it's a perfect theme for boys/girls of any age group or even for adults. Infact I even saw some weddings in a carnival theme, how fun would that wedding have been? :) 
Long post ahead with all the tiny details we included for this fun birthday party, so keep reading!

After discussing with Manish about the theme, he too loved it and we decided to do a Carnival birthday party in our backyard! I wanted to keep a bunch of fun games for the kids with a proper Carnival approach where each kids got tickets to play the games.  We invited only very close friends and neighbors whom Appu was familiar with so that he would have fun playing with everyone and not be shy.


The games were all set out all over our backyard with a proper sign board for each game which we printed out and made ourselves. The games we planned were:

Carnival Can Toss : 6 cans stacked together to be knocked down with a ball. Me and my friend Winnie, saved all used cans (fruit, tomato paste, coconut milk cans etc) cleaned and wrapped them in printed paper for the game.

Ping Pong Fishing : Aim pin pong balls into the fish bowls (plastic cups with blue cellophane to resemble water and a plastic goldfish) and if they win they get to keep the fish!

Starfish Ring Toss : Starfish shaped inflatable with 5 rings & poles, kids had to aim all the rings on the poles.

Bowling Pins : Roll the bowling ball to knock down the pin spread out on his alphabet mat. This game was Appu's special request and his birthday present from us, he loves playing it all the time.
Basketball Throw: Aim the ball into the basket. (You can see the basketball hoop behind the bowling pins)

Duck Pond Fishing: Fish the ducks out of the pond using the fish pole -- this game was a huge hit!

Ping Pong Toss: Aim 6 ping pong balls into 6 red cups. 

Each kid got a wristband and name tags as they walked up to the games area...yup wristbands, just like an actual Carnival, just that these said 'Manav's Carnival' on them :-)

Each kid were given 7 'Admit-One' tickets , 1 for each game. They had to stand in line and wait for their turn to play a game and were given few rounds to play each game and if they won, a different set of blue colored 'Keep this Coupon' Tickets were handed over. The kids actually played to win the blue tickets and were well behaved. They had a blast and apparently the duck pond fishing game was the biggest hit among all the kids. 

Even though it turned out to be a super hot and sunny day, all the kids including my little guy and all my volunteer friends (who manned the games) were sporty and played very nicely and had a good time.


We decorated our entire backyard and patio deck with fun carnival themed party hangings and lots of colorful balloons. It looked very colorful and festive.

For the Cake table I wanted a colorful station that depicted a fun carnival-like-candyland including a full fledged Directional sign board and colorful balloons. We stationed the cake table against our backyard fence which was a good spot.
There was a Circus Tent, Carousel and Ferris wheel on the Cake table to go with the Carnival theme. We also kept some colorful (homemeade) Trix treats, M&M chocolates and cookies, yummy Truffle balls, popcorn and cheesepuffs and a colorful Lolipop tree. 

I wanted a marquee with the letter 'M' on the cake table and decided to make it ourselves. So we bought a 3D alphabet block M from Michaels and covered it with Red scrapbook paper. Manish and his dad drilled holes to place the blinking LED balloon lights and actually made the marquee come to life, just like how I wanted and it blinked away all throughout the party :-) The mini gumball machine filled with peanut M&M's was actually lil'Appu's favorite thing on the cake table. 
For the Circus Tent , we borrowed a styrofoam lolipop stand from our nearby Dollar Store and wrapped it up with fun carnival red and white striped wrapping paper and printed out a Carnival tent that fit perfectly as the backdrop.
We made some colorful Trix Treats (instead of Rice Krispie treats) on a stick and though some of them standing meting due to the heat and started dropping down on the stick, it still looked quite good.

The colorful Ferris wheel was made my my talented couple friends Swati and Navaneet and it actually awesome!
There was also a fun photograph of Appu which he posed for saying he had strong muscles and that was perfect to keep near the marshmallow dumbbells (which I called Strongman dumbells). And not to forget the waterbottles with customized wraps.

I decided to make a Carousel Cake this time for Appu's birthday and one that actually rotates...yes the Carousel on top of the cake actually rotates. As usual I love to experiment with my family's b'day cakes, so a fun fact about the cake is that the yellow portion of the cake is not fondant but yellow colored White Chocolate I made my first Colored Ganache cake! And another fun part...the cake was filled with colorful polka a Polka Dot surprise inside cake it was....yaay! More about that in a separate post.

The Directional Board was our next big project. We actually went to Menards to get a decent sized white colored wooden board to form the stem of the directional board. I had plenty of colorful chart paper which my brother-in-law helped cut into different sided arrows and I printed out the names and stuck them on the chart. Later my father-in-law helped stick each sign on the board. It was amazing to see how it all came up finally! The sign directions did not quite match with where the actual stuff was but it did not matter...hehe.


For the Carnival prizes, our plan was to actually hang all the prizes on the wrapped board with pushpins and place the board near the Games area for all the kids to see, but they wouldn't stay and kept falling down with the weight, so we just placed them flat on the board and kept a sign that said Carnival Prizes.

Each set of prizes were kept within ziploc bags and we printed out an image that said 'Manav's Carnival' and 'Happy 4th Birthday' on either side and placed them on top of the ziploc and stapled it up. It looked just like how a party favor bag bought from party city would look like but customized :-D The fun carnival prizes included variety of toys, pencils, chocolates and fun star shaped sunglasses. Each kid could select any bag they wanted. Apart from the color of the toys/glasses and chocolates everything in each bag was same.


Cake cutting went really well...all the kids gathered around the cake table...they all got so excited that they started screaming on top of their lungs, which was quite noisy if i may say so, but they were all happy and that's what mattered.

Appu wanted to hold the knife and cut the cake all by himself which I had to reluctantly agree to unless I wanted a tantrum at that moment. 
The rotating carousel peeked everyone's curiosity and the kids wanted to touch it and try stopping the rotation...oh well! chaos with a big C :-D N to top it off, my cake was almost on the verge of melting due to all the heat so I just wanted to be done with it ...Lol! 

Everyone sang Happy Birthday while Appu decently cut a pretty slice all by himself and literally gulped the entire piece. He happily ate a slice from whoever gave him one and was the first to take another big slice to go n eat it all by himself...either he was damn hungry or he really loved the cake...hehe! 

It was a fun Polka dot inside White Chocolate cake with White Chocolate Ganache and everyone said the cake tasted amazing. More on the cake in a detail post...coming soon :)


We kept a fun Photobooth with lots of cheeky carnival props for everyone to strike a pose! It was huge hit and everyone enjoyed taking a snap with the fun props. We forgot to take a pic of the props but you get it right? ;-)

Appu's favorite was the gumball machine and he used that as his prop and ate up all the candy in it too...Love the pics where the kids are posing with the props!


When I asked Appu what he wanted to eat on his b'day he said without evening thinking - Pizza! So well, we went the easy route with the food, although I had a huge plan of a carnival themed food spread, but I'm so glad I didn't go crazy on that and ordered some simple food. The only hard work we did on the food was making the food labels...Lol!!
We decided to not keep any carbonated drinks as it was a kids party so instead there was plenty of refreshing and chilled homemade Mango lemonade and Strawberry lemonade and Water for drinks with Potato chips, colorful fryums and popcorn for snacking. 

Appetizers: Chicken Wings and Cheesy Garlic Bread 
Pizza: Variety of Veg and chicken options
Pasta : Veg and chicken Pasta from our favorite Italian restaurant - Bucca Di Beppo. 
Dessert: Chilled Mango custard with mixed fruits and nuts.
My mother-in-law and I made the delicious Mango Fruit custard for dessert which we forgot to bring out from the fridge until the last moment - oops! so a few friends missed that treat before they left. Sorry about that folks...we enjoyed the remaining dessert over the next few days...hehe!

In all it was a superb birthday party , the games and decor were a big hit and although it was a super hot day everyone seemed to have had fun. My parents-in-law, Manish (hus) and some close friends were so helpful in getting everything setup for the party. 
The night before the party my mother-in-law (mummy) and father-in-law (pappa) stayed up late at night to stick the personalized labels for the water bottles and the carnival prizes and pappa helped with all the balloon blowing and getting the directional board ready.  Love them!

Phew! Finally I'm done with writing down this b'day post. I feel like I've been writing this forever as I did not want to miss any detail, a lot of which I had to purposely omit to not make it too boring. It's also taken me sooooooo long to just get all the pics sorted out, for which I need to thank my friend and photographer Bishal for capturing such awesome moments of the birthday party.

If you've kept up with my rambling until here, then I'll be back soon with some more details on the cake soon in my next blog post, so stay put...until then, lets all have fun, be goofy and have a carnival time ;-)


Jul 17, 2015

Meen Pathiri - steamed Rice Pancakes with a Fish Masala stuffing | a Malabari delight

I love trying varieties of food when cooking for friends or if I have guests over. I know it’s not a good practice to experiment with food for the very first time when you have guests over. But if I’m calling over close friends who share the same passion as me when it comes to trying new food I don’t mind. I know they’ll forgive me if it fails and still eat the dish or else applaud it and want me to immediately share it on the blog ;-) I’m thankful for having such friends.

I wanted to share this post the same week I made this dish but that got delayed by a couple of months now :-D Anyways, few months ago, I had a set of close pals over for lunch and decided we’ll have a Malabari themed lunch. Malabar is the northern region of kerala and their cuisine is quite different from Kottayam (where I’m from) and let me say the food options are really yumm!
Initially I had thought of making the whole lunch myself but then we later decided on a potluck…Don’t blame me if you start drooling all over :-D , but the lunch menu we decided on was:
Chicken Chatti pathiri, Meen Pathiri, Kappa with Fish Curry, Varutharacha Chicken Curry, Spicy Fish fry, Nei Chor, Mixed Veg raita, Rasmalai (for dessert)

Wanting to try something new and different I decided to try my hand at making Chicken Chatti Pathiri and Meen Pathiri. My friends decided to bring the other stuff and for dessert I just bought some Rasmalai from the Indian store, which turned out really good btw.

All the dishes came out so good and we couldn’t stop complimenting each other for our cooking skills…Lol! The Meen Pathiri was a big hit, everyone went for second and third helpings. 
Meen Pathiri is a Malabar treat which is commonly served during special occasions like Weddings, Ramadan feast etc. They are steamed rice pancakes with a Fish Masala filling. The pancakes itself tastes great on their own. The preparation can be a bit time consuming but they were really worth it and if you shallow fry the fish instead of deep frying and use less oil when preparing the masala, these Fish pancakes turn out to be a very healthy snack/appetizer option too. It’s a must try dish!

The Chicken Pathiri came out pretty good for a first try, it held its shape and came out perfectly from the pan but I personally felt the chicken filling needed some more spice or flavor, so I’m not sharing the recipe for that now. I want to give it another try and see if it works next time and then will share my experience in detail. 

But for now let’s enjoy and try this awesome Meen Pathiri recipe. The fish masala filling  is simply awesome and even the Rice Pathiri tastes great on its own. My friends also agreed this was a good recipe to share on the blog, so here it is…

I followed the recipe instructions as given by my favorite Malabari cuisine blogger Shabs from her blog Shab's cuisine and have almost copied the instructions exactly as written by her as it was so well explained. The only changes I made was using Idli rice for the pathiri and using boneless fish whereas she has used fish with bones and de-boned the fish after frying. 

MEEN PATHIRI (Fish masala stuffed Rice Pancakes)
Recipe Source: Shab's Cuisine

You'll Need
For Rice Pathiri
2 cups Parboiled rice (I used IDLI Rice)
1 ½ Tablespoons fennel seeds (Perumjeerakam)
1 ¾ cups grated coconut
1 ½ cups water
1 cup Rice flour
Salt – As required

For Fish fry
3-4 Fillets of boneless Tilapia
2 Tablespoons Red Chilli powder
1 teaspoon Black pepper powder
1 teaspoon Coriander powder
½ teaspoon Turmeric powder
Salt as needed
Water as needed to make a thick paste

For Fish Masala
3 Large onions (approx 4cups chopped)
5 large cloves of garlic (1 heaped Tblsp, grated)
2 medium Tomatoes (approx 1 cup chopped)
2 teaspoon Kashmiri Chilli Powder
3 teaspoon Coriander powder
½ teaspoon Turmeric powder
1-1 ½ Tablespoon Lime/lemon juice
2 twigs curry leaves, chopped
6-8 Mint leaves, chopped
Tablespoons Coriander leaves
Tablespoons water
½ teaspoon Garam masala
1 teaspoon salt

For Coconut paste:
½ cup grated coconut
½ teaspoon fennel seeds (perumjeerakam)
2 shallots
4 Tablespoons (1/4 cup) water

For making the Ari (rice) Pathiri :
1. Soak the rice in water for 3-4 hours or overnight.
2. Grind it with minimal water until you get a coarse yet grainy mixture.
3. Add coconut, fennel seeds, roughly chopped onions and salt to this and grind for few seconds until everything is just crushed and NOT smooth.
4. Tip the whole mixture in to a large bowl, add the rice powder and mix well using hands until you get dough that can be shaped into balls.

For Fish masala
1. Rub the fish with salt and lemon juice to get rid of the raw smell. Wash it thoroughly.
2. Make a thick paste of all the powders with water and marinate fish for about ½ hour -1 hour.
3. Make a smooth coconut paste by grinding the coconut, fennel, 2 shallots and water.
4. Heat a large frying pan and add oil. Fry the fish well. Remove from flame and break each piece into 4-6 portions. Keep them aside.
5. In the same pan, add onions and salt and sauté until it becomes soft and translucent. Add ginger, garlic and sauté for few minutes until the onion is cooked very well. Add chilli powder, coriander powder and turmeric powder and sauté for few seconds.
6. Add in the chopped tomatoes, cover and cook till the tomatoes are soft and cooked. Add the coconut paste and ¼ cup water (less or more as required to get a very thick, neither dry nor watery gravy/masala). 
7. Cover and cook for 3-4 minutes until the raw smell of the coconut goes away. Add the chopped coriander-mint leaves, lime/lemon juice and garam masala and stir well, cook for a minute or two. Add the fish pieces, cover and cook on very low flame until all the flavour is infused well for about 8-10 minutes.

For assembling the Meen Pathiri:
1. Take a small portion from the rice dough, make a ball and flatten it on a non-stick sheet (I used my Silpat mat, can also use square cutouts of wax paper or a banana leaf) using the heel of your palm. Add some masala in the centre along with the fish pieces. Leave some space at the ends.
2. Make another pathiri in another sheet the same way, a bit bigger than the previous one and cover the masala filled pathiri, covering the masala completely. Slowly press the edges using the fingers to seal all the fish masala in.

3. For steaming the pathiri, you can either place the pathiri with the wax paper/banana leaf itself into the steamer, or else just place each pathiri into a greased steamer by itself and steam for 10-12 minutes until its fully cooked through and becomes firm to touch.

4. Repeat the same process until all the fish masala and the rice dough are used up. Serve hot!

The entire lunch was a hit with these Meen (fish) Pathiri turning out the best! I'm urging you all to give it a try sometime.


Jul 15, 2015

Pizza Margherita

The first time I read the name Pizza Margherita on a menu card at a restaurant I was quite puzzled...I wondered, do they actually add Margarita in a pizza? Sounds quite dumb but trust me I was quite amused to find that I wasn't the only one who had thought so. Apparently Margarita (the drink) and Margherita (the pizza) are world's apart from each other and even the spellings are different although they are pronounced the same. 

Pizza Margherita or Margherita Pizza is a really simple Pizza yet it's huge on flavor. You just need three main ingredients for this pizza, Mozerella (fresh is best), a flavorful Tomato pizza sauce and fresh Basil leaves. 

Here's what I found when I searched on trusted for why this pizza is named as such:
  1. An often recounted story holds that on 11 June 1889, to honour the Queen consort of Italy, Margherita of Savoy, the Neapolitan pizzamaker Raffaele Esposito created the "Pizza Margherita", a pizza garnished with tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil, to represent the national colours of Italy as on the Italian flag.

I love baking fresh homemade pizza and trying new toppings each time and this was a flavor I tried when we kept a simple backyard bbq gettogether with friends. These were ideally meant as an appetizer and got over so fast that I only managed to take some quick snaps on my Iphone camera, thank goodness for such smart phone cams. Even my lil'Appu loved this pizza and ate several slices.

The pizza crust recipe makes about 2 medium sized pizzas, I made 4 small pizzas. I just used some store bought Marinara sauce and Grated mozerella cheese for the toppings and used fresh Basil leaves from our garden.  Fresh Basil leaves is quite a must to bring out the flavor in this pizza...


You'll Need
For Pizza Dough
½ cup Warm Water
2 ¼ teaspoon Instant  Yeast
4 cups Bread flour / All-purpose Flour plus more for dusting
1 ½ teaspoon Salt
1 ¼ cup water, at room temperature
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

For Margherita Pizza topping
Preferred Pizza sauce (Marinara sauce)
Grated Mozerella as needed or use fresh Mozerella
Fresh Basil leaves, as needed
Salt as needed
Red chilli flakes / Seasoned Pizza flavoring herbs etc for garnish

To make Pizza Dough
1.Take warm water in a small bowl and add the instant yeast and set it aside. (sometimes I add a pinch of sugar to help activate the yeast faster)
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment add the flour and salt and mix well.
3. Add the measured water at room temperature into the yeast mixture.
4. On a slow speed add the yeast-water mixture with olive oil into the flour and combine until a dough starts to form.
5. Switch to the dough hook and knead on low speed until the dough is smooth and elastic for about 5 minutes and transfer the dough onto a greased/oiled bowl covered with plastic wrap and let it rest and double in size for about 1 – 1 ½ hours.

Once doubled in size, deflate the dough gently and divide into equal parts (I divided the dough into 4 parts) and rolled the dough into balls and cover each ball with a damp cloth and let them rest again for 10minutes. (if not using all the dough balls, you can freeze them by individually wrapping in plastic wrap)

To make Pizza Margherita

1. Make the pizza rounds by dusting the work surface with some flour and rolling out with a rolling pin or dusted hands to desired size keeping the crust a little thick and brushed with some olive oil.  Place the pizza on a baking tray that is lightly sprinkled with some cornmeal or Sooji(rava) to prevent the dough from sticking.

2. Spoon the top of the pizza base with desired pizza sauce, I used marinara sauce bought from our local Kowalski store (it was perfectly seasoned and had a lovely flavor)
3. Tear some fresh Basil leaves and add them over the top of the marinara sauce.
4. Top with generous amounts of grated Mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over the top.
5. Pre-heat the oven at 500F and then place the baking tray with the pizza on it and bake for about 10-12 mins or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. You may need to reduce or increase baking times depending on the size of your pizza.
6. If desired garnish the pizza with red chilli flakes or dried pizza seasoning for extra flavor. Cut into slices and serve hot!

Recipe Source:
Pizza Dough: Annies Eats
Pizza Toppings: My own


Jun 2, 2015

Chicken stir fry with Yellow Capsicum

A simple rice dish paired with a semi-gravy, almost stir-fry like dish is one of my favorite ways to enjoy a quick weeknight meal. I cook mostly vegetarians side dishes at home to pair along with rice on weekdays and try to limit eating non-veg to weekends but Manish and my little boy are chicken and fish lovers. Manish feels if he eats only veg meals two days in a row then he's on a diet :-P I donno how lil'Appu feels but he ceratinly doesn't eat his food as fast as how he does when he is served fish or chicken :-)

Anyways this dish was one of my quick experiments on a weeknight when I felt it would be good have some chicken and also make use of the lone Yellow Capsicum that got lost in the wee corners of the vegetable tray in my fridge :-) The dish pairs very well with simple Jeera Rice or plain white Basmati rice.

It's an Indianized stir fry, no soy sauce or ketchup or deep frying the chicken. I just used our regular masalas and cooked the dish without extra water and added the capsicum at the end after turning off the heat. The capsicum cooks slightly with the heat from the dish but still stays crunchy.  

It was the first time I'm trying a yellow capsicum, I've only tried the regular Green and Red variety. I must say I really liked the flavor of the capsicum which was slightly sweet yet not too overpowering. And not to mention the beautiful color it adds to the dish.

I used boneless and skinless Chicken thigh meat cut into small cubes. They cook quickly and stays soft and juicy once cooked. No extra water is added for the gravy. The dish is mildly spiced and is not overly spicy so it was perfect even for my 3½ year old to chomp down with the flavorful rice. 

Chicken stir fry with Yellow Capsicum

You’ll Need
2 or 3 Boneless skinless Chicken Thigh meat (cut into small cubes)
1 Large Red Onion , cut into large squares
1 Roma Tomato, cut into cubes
1 Tablespoon fresh Ginger –Garlic paste
2-3 Green chillies, slit lenghtwise
1 Yellow Capsicum , cut into cubes
½ teaspoon Turmeric powder
1 teaspoon Red chilli powder
2 teaspoons Corriander powder
1 teaspoon Garam masala powder
Salt to taste
Handful of Corriander leaves , for garnish
For tempering
1 Tablespoon Oil (I use Oilve oil)
1 teaspoon Mustard seeds
1 teaspoon Fennel seeds
2 Dry Red chillies
1 sprig Curry leaves

1.In a large pan, heat the oil and crack the mustard seeds. Then add the fennel seeds. Finally add the dry red chillies and curry leaves.
2. Add the ginger-garlic paste, red onions and green chillies and saute for 2 minutes.
3. Then add the spice powders : turmeric powder, red chilli powder, coriander powder, garam masala. Roast the masala spices and then add cubed tomato. 
4. Finally add in the cubed chicken pieces, give everything a stir, add enough salt, cover the pan with a lid and cook on medium-low heat until chicken is fully cooked through.
3. Once the chicken is cooked, take off the lid and cook on medium heat until gravy thickens. Once desired gravy consistency is achieved add the yellow capsicum, give it a good stir and turn off the heat. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve hot with Rice ( I served it with spiced Jeera rice)


Apr 8, 2015

Lemon Cake with Mango Curd Filling and Lemon Buttercream Frosting

Spring is round the corner…yes, very much. Yellow and white are one of my all-time favorite color combinations and I had set my mind on a Lemon cake for Manish’s b’day. He too enjoys fruity flavors more than plain chocolate or vanilla. The final décor of the cake was a last minute on-the-go decision. I had tons of ideas in mind, but did not want a very time taking decorating process nor do something I’ve already done. 

Very recently I had seen a video shared by someone on a facebook group about how to get smooth ombre layers using buttercream and it looked quite easy and I wanted to give that a try. Another thing I wanted to try were buttercream flowers. 

You might have already seen my buttercream roses, so this time I decided to go for sunflowers, which was quite easy to pipe and have a lovely orangish yellow color. I initially thought of just doing sunflowers, but wanted a little extra color on the cake and did some quick roses and leaves for a final touch and to add freshness and a spring garden like appearance.

I love this view of the cake, where you can easily see the sunflowers, roses and leaves and also see the three ombre shaded colors cascading from orangish yellow to lemon yellow to white. Even my cakeboard is a flowery shape which was coincidental btw...

In this post I’m doing a simple tutorial with whatever pictures I was able to capture while I torted, filled, frosted and decorated Manish’s Spring themed Birthday Cake. And I’m also sharing the recipe for the Lemon cake, simple lemon syrup, mango curd filling and lemon buttercream. I apologize in advance if the post is too long, but I've tried making it as informative as possible.

First let's get to the recipe. I know it sounds like a lot of work...well, hell ya it was. But so worth the effort and a completely new flavor that you might enjoy. Give it a try for a special occasion. 

Lemon Cake with Mango Curd Filling and Lemon Buttercream

Lemon Cake recipe
Recipe Source: Ina Garten

You'll Need
For Lemon cake
½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup grated lemon zest (6 to 8 large lemons)
3 cups flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
¾ cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon LorAnns Lemon Oil (optional)

For simple Lemon Syrup
½ cup Granulated Sugar
½ cup Lemon Juice

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 8"x2" round cake pans. Line the bottom with parchment paper and grease the parchment paper as well.
2. Cream the butter and 2 cups granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, and the lemon zest.
3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, the buttermilk, vanilla and lemon flavored oil (optional). 
4. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide the batter evenly between the pans, smooth the tops, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.
5. Prepare the lemon syrup by combining ½ cup granulated sugar with ½ cup lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves.
6. When the cakes are done, allow to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans and set them on a rack set over a tray or sheet pan. Allow the cakes to cool completely or refrigerate for few hours. Torte the cakes and brush or spoon the lemon syrup over the cake layers evenly.

Mango Curd recipe
Recipe Source: Adpated from Epicurious
Makes 1 to 1½ cups

You'll Need
1 cup canned mango pulp or One 15-ounce ripe mango, peeled, pitted, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
½ cup sugar
4 tablespoons fresh squeezed Lemon Juice
Pinch of salt
4 large egg yolks
¼ cup ( ½ stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1. Puree fresh mango or Mango Pulp, Sugar, Lemon juice and salt in processor/mixer grinder, scraping down sides of work bowl occasionally.
2. Add in the egg yolks, puree 15 seconds longer. Strain through sieve set over large glass bowl (like Pyrex), pressing on solids with back of spatula to release as much puree as possible. Discard solids in sieve.
3. Set the glass bowl over saucepan of simmering water (do not allow bottom of bowl to touch water). Whisk puree until thickened and a thermometer registers 170°F, about 10 minutes (I cooked almost 15-20 mins to be safe as I had no thermometer). 
Remove from over water.  The curd should be thick and should coat the back of a spoon…that’s the desired consistency.  Whisk in butter 1 piece at a time. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Lemon Buttcream Recipe
I bought some LorAnn’s Lemon flavored oil in clearance at Michaels. 
Pic courtesy: Google Images
It was amazing and I highly recommend these flavoring oils for any baking or candy making projects and there are all kinds of flavors available. They impart immense flavor even with the usage of a small quantity. I loved using them in to flavor my cake and buttcream with a fruity lemon flavor.

I made a double batch of below recipe. The lemon flavor is mild and not overpowering.

You’ll need
Unsalted Butter , at room temp – 1 cup (that’s  2sticks or ½ pound)
Powdered sugar or Confectioners’ sugar (sifted) – 3 or 4 cups
Pure Vanilla Extract – 1 tblsp
Lorann’s Lemon flavored Oil – ½ teaspoon
Milk or heavy cream – 4 tblsp or as needed
Salt – a pinch (optional)

1.Beat butter until smooth and creamy using a paddle attachment on medium speed if using KitchenAid mixer or using electric hand blender.
2. Add 3 cups of powdered sugar , little at a time on low speed, until it mixes well with the butter.
3. Increase the speed to medium and add Vanilla extract lemon oil, salt (if using) and 4 tblsp of milk/heavy cream. Combine well for few minutes until smooth and creamy.
(If you want a thicker frosting add remaining 1 cup sugar. If you want a thinner consistency add more milk 1 tblsp at a time )

Now lets see how this all came up. I'm sharing how I generally fill, crumb coat and some basics of how I went about decorating this cake (these steps can be followed for any cake you make frosted with buttercream, ofcource decorations styles and techniques might vary). I couldn't take a lot of pics while doing the whole process, so pls bear with me. I hope this helps :-)

Assembling and decorating a layer Cake

Things to do atleast 1 day ahead:
1.  Bake two 8”x2” Lemon cakes.  
2.  Prepare simple Lemon syrup.
3.  Prepare Mango Curd Filling. If using whipped cream also for filling, prepare that as well and keep both fillings refrigerated. (prepare whipped cream just before actually filling the cake)
4.  Make lemon flavored vanilla buttercream. (if refrigerating, bring it to room temperature before using)

After the cakes have completely cooled, I torte them (slice each cake in half) using a serrated knife. I prefer to refrigerate my cakes before doing this, so that they are cold enough and will reduce any crumbling of cake while cutting.
Place the cakes on a plate/tray with cut side up and using a pastry brush,  evenly brush the lemon syrup over the cake. It will be absorbed by the cake and helps keep the cake moist with added lemon flavor.

Place one layer of cake on a cake board and create a dam with buttercream. (I had plenty of leftover chocolate buttercream from an earlier cake, so used that ) Add enough mango curd filling to cover the cake, making sure it doesn’t spill out of the buttercream dam.

I added a little whipped cream on top of the mango curd filling to offset the tartness but it’s entirely your choice.

Stack the cake layers on top of each other and repeat the process above. Make sure the top layer of the cake is flat. Let this sit in refrigerator for 10 mins.

Now take your buttercream and fill it in the gaps between each layer.  Fill it in and make it as smooth as possible. This is how I do my crumb coat. Again refrigerate for 5 -10mins.

Next I shaded my lemon buttercream in two different shades of yellow and left the rest white.  I started with using my small offset spatula and applied a 1” high coating of the darkest yellow buttercream (this is lemon yellow + orange gel color mixed to get a sunflower yellow). Next I added a layer with the lighter shade of yellow and finished on top with white colored buttercream.

Use a bench scraper dipped in hot water, wipe away the water and gently smooth around the sides of the cake, making the three layers of color blend together. Repeat the process until the sides are very smooth. You may have to add/remove excess buttercream during this process….it’s does take some time, but its very rewarding in the end. Similarly smoothen the top of the cake with buttercream as well and slowly it starts to look like this :)

Finally I piped Sunflowers, Roses and some leaves on top of the cake for my Spring themed cake.
The sunflower centers were chocolate buttercream.
The Sunflower petals were piped with Wilton tip # 366 . 
The Roses were piped with Wilton tip # 104 . 
The leaves were piped with Wilton tip # 366
For a final touch I made a simple fondant ribbon and wrote 'Happy Birthday Manish!!!' and placed it on the cake board.

The pretty cake slice will look like this...yummmm...yummm! 

So there you are. Next time if possible I'll get Manish to take some pics of me while I'm piping the flowers or making smooth sides on the cake...its just dififcult to multi-task when my hands are full of buttercream...Lol!

See you all soon and have a lovely time.